Monday, September 8, 2008

Water bears in Spaaaace!

[Note: This has little to do with Chinese or translation, just was interesting to me.]

The other day I read all about these weird creatures called tardigrades, also known as "water bears." [OK, there is some Chinese in this post: water bear = 水熊 (shui3 xiong2) ] They are microscopic invertebrates who have eight legs with little claws and look like strange, alien gummi bears. They also have a sweet skill called "cryptobiosis," where in extreme environments they dry up into little balls, called "tuns," and their metabolism slows to 0.01% of its normal rate.

I was reading a study today about an experiment where these German and Swedish scientists put a bunch of tardigrade tuns onto a spaceship and exposed the water bears to the vacuum of space and strong UV radiation. They brought them back to Earth, and most of them survived and were able to reproduce after being rehydrated.

What captured my interest was 1) the way these things look (see photos) and 2) the fact that they can survive in space unprotected. Altho it is important to note that the water bears are not actual "extremophiles" since they do not "live" in extreme environments (preferring to live in drops of water on moss leaves), but they can survive extreme conditions.

PREDICTION: Someday people will be injected with water bear genes and will be able to dry up, get launched into space at near light speed and wind up on a habitable planet 6,000 years later, rehydrate and begin partying.

No comments: